The House of Representatives has suspended action on a bill seeking to establish a federal medical centre (FMC) in Debainstead of Billiri in Gombe State, insisting that the Senate concurs with earlier version of the bill passed by the House.
Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, while affirming the decision of the House said the bill already sent by the Senate should be held in abeyance until the Senate concurs on a bill for an act to establish Federal Medical Centre in Billiri sent to it six months ago.
The decision followed strong resistance by members from southern part of Gombe, who insisted that the House cannot consider the Senate’s request for concurrence on a duplicate bill while the version passed by the House has been left unattended to since September 2021.
The members led by Mr Victor Mela Danzaria (Balanga/BilliriFederal Constituency) and Karu Simon Elisha (KaltungoShongom) who literally held the Chamber hostage for over 30 minutes at the Wednesday plenary, insisted that the senate was misled to pass the bill that domciled the FMC in Deba instead of Billiri as earlier passed by the House.
Raising a point of order to stop the Senate’s request for concurrence, Danzaria reminded his colleagues that a bill on the same subject matter had been duly passed by the House and was awaiting concurrence of the Senate since September last year.
He argued that further deliberation on the controversial Senate’s request amount to a breach of his privilege.
According to the lawmaker, the already passed bill underwent first and second readings in the House of Representatives on the March 12, 2020 and May 6, 2021 respectively. The bill was subjected to public hearing where memorandum were presented to the House Committee on Health.
“On 8th July, 2021, it went through the third reading and final passage in the House of Representatives and on the 16th September, 2021, it was transmitted to the Senate for concurrence,” he said.
“l have respect for the sponsors of the Senate bill, but he knows too well that the Federal Government cannot afford two federal medical centres in Gombe State, what then was his motive for sponsoring a duplicate bill when he could have encouraged the Senate to concur on the already passed bill that has been before it for six months,” Danzaria argued.
It would be recalled that the federal lawmakers last October raised an alarm about a duplicate bill sponsored by GombeCentral Senator Danjuma Goje on the establishment of FMC at Deba, whereas there was a similar bill sponsored by Danzariapassed by the House that domiciled the FMC in Billiri for the benefit of the people of Balanga, Kaltungo, Shongom, Billiri and Akko which also include the Christian minority.
The members had expressed disappointment on Senator Goje, wondering why a former governor, former minister and a four-term senator who ought to be promoting justice, equity and fairness for all would sponsor a duplicate bill that would deny the people in the affected five local governments access to tertiary health care.”
The lawmakers had then described Senate duplicate version as divisive even as it accused Senator Goje of plot to subvert the bill passed by the House for the establishment of a Federal Medical Centre in Billiri, Gombe State, urging Senate not to dissipate energy but to stop further deliberations on the duplicate bill.
Danzaria and his colleagues from Gombe south expressed strong condemnation over the Senate’s action, saying it was an injustice that must not be allowed to stand.
“A bill on the same subject matter has been duly passed,awaiting concurrence of the Senate, Senator Goje knows too well that the Federal Government cannot afford two federal medical centres in Gombe State. What then is his motive for sponsoring similar bill when he could have canvassed support for the already passed bill at the Senate?” Danzaria argued.
Ruling on the matter, Speaker Gbajabiamila ordered that the Senate bill “be held in abeyance pending the action of the Senate on a Bill for an Act to Establish Federal Medical Centre, Billiri, Gombe State and for other related matters.”
“We have to observe the rule of first in time. It hasn’t even gone through first reading before it was sent there for concurrence,” Gbajabiamila said, referring to the Senate bill.
“We have same situation with other bills and l have made these pronouncement on the floor a couple of times. If any bill comes from the Senate and it’s in the House and it’s been sitting down in this House, it would be difficult for me to accept for a member to bring the same bill on the floor of the House because it would be unfair on the Senate who sponsored that bill and sent it here for concurrence.
“In similar vein, I would not accept for a member’s bill to be in the Senate just cooling off for months and a similar bill is brought to the floor of the House and we process that. So therefore, what is fair is fair. We will take this bill which has already gone for first reading and we will leave it in abeyance until Honourable Mela’s bill that has been sitting there for the past six months is processed in the Senate. I think that’s the only fair and proper thing to do,” Gbajabiamila ruled.